Great outdoors: this summer's best alfresco productions

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Gigi

Open Air Theatre, Regent's Park, London

The Open Air Theatre's programme this year is Shakespeare-heavy as usual, with productions of Romeo and Juliet, Twelfth Night and A Midsummer Night's Dream for children, but to go by their utterly charming, vintage-styled productions of The Boy Friend and Lady Be Good over the last two years, Gigi should be the hot ticket this season. The musical that gave Audrey Hepburn her first Broadway role was written by Lerner and Loewe, better known for their other Hepburn vehicle, My Fair Lady. With old-timers Millicent Martin and Topol in the cast and songs including "Thank Heaven for Little Girls" and "The Night They Invented Champagne", it's sure to be an evening of elegant nostalgia.

6 August to 13 September; season opens 2 June (0844 826 4242; www.openairtheatre.org)

Richard III

Ludlow Castle & Rougemont Gardens, Exeter

In a bracing change from the usual summertime Shakespearean fare of comedies, this production brings wicked plots, villainy and bloodshed to the ruins of Ludlow castle (an apt location: in the play, it's where Prince Edward is proclaimed King before his incarceration in the Tower of London) and to the Roman city walls of Rougemont Gardens.

Ludlow, 21 June to 6 July (01584 872150); Exeter, 17 July to 9 August (01392 493493)

A Midsummer Night's Dream

Headington Hill Park, Oxford

This summer, Creation Theatre Company will be encouraging audiences to lose themselves among the trees of Headington Hill Park as Puck and the lovers lead them on a magical, romantic journey through A Midsummer Night's Dream. The company are also performing Much Ado About Nothing at the foot of the ancient mound of Oxford Castle, and Animal Farm in the exercise yard of the city's old prison.

4 July to 13 September; season opens 13 June (01865 766266; www.creationtheatre.co.uk)

The Hound of the Baskervilles

Duff House, Banff, and touring

A much-loved staple of the alfresco theatre scene, Illyria have been touring their productions around the stately homes and forests of the UK for nearly 20 years. Their Sherlock Holmes caper has a typically larky undertone but also makes for a gripping evening out – this performance in a brooding Scottish castle should be particularly atmospheric.

19 August, touring from 20 July to 7 September (www. illyria.uk.com)

Much Ado About Nothing

Botanical Gardens, Bath, then touring

Authenticity is the key for the Lord Chamberlain's Men, who take their name from the 16th-century troupe Shakespeare wrote for and acted in for much of his career. Their Much Ado About Nothing will tour the kind of grand castles and country estates at which the Bard would have pitched up, and features an all-male cast and period music played on whistles, drums and mandolin. And while the audience unpack their hampers pre-performance, they'll be entertained by wandering minstrels and dancers.

Touring to 31 August ( www.tlcm.co.uk)

Life of Pi

Minack, Cornwall

A trip to this spectacular cliff-side amphitheatre is a must for any summer tourist. This year's programme is the usual mixture of amateur and professional, with lashings of Shakespeare. Most intriguing is Life of Pi, a co-production between Twisting Yarn and the Central School of Speech and Drama, who will play out Yann Martel's delightful, Booker-winning tale of peril and adventure on the high seas as the waves crash below the audience's feet.

17 to 20 June; season runs to 21 September (01736 810181; www.minack.com)

The Bell

Royal Arsenal, Woolwich

Periplum's latest outdoor spectacle is a retelling of Tarkovsky's epic film Andrei Rublev. Part of the Greenwich and Docklands Festival, four days of free theatre and dance in the east of London, the night-time event features actors on stilts and plenty of pyrotechnics, culminating in the creation of a giant, fiery bell by the inhabitants of a town destroyed by war.

19 June; festival runs to 22 June (www.festival.org)

Shoot/Get Treasure/Repeat

Latitude Festival

Last year, Latitude's theatre arena offered some fine theatrical gems from Paines Plough, nabokov and the Royal Court, who presented a series of six short plays based on pop songs. This year, it's bigger and better, with some mouth-watering off-West End fare from the RSC, the National Theatre – with a new play from Abi Morgan about refugees – the Bush Theatre and the Arcola. And the Royal Court is back with Mark Ravenhill's cycle of plays Shoot/Get Treasure/Repeat, which began life in Edinburgh when he wrote a new play for every day of the month-long Fringe. Following a successful run in various venues around London, the theatre will present four of Ravenhill's taut, 20-minute, state-of-the-nation plays exploring the personal and political effects of war, directed by Dominic Cooke and Max Stafford-Clarke among others.

17 to 20 July, Henham Park, Southwold (020-7009 3001; www.latitudefestival.co.uk)

Twelfth Night

Cornbury Park estate, then touring

Only the best of venues will do for the Oxford Shakespeare Company. Their tour of Twelfth Night encompasses Kensington and Hampton Court Palaces, and Wadham College, Oxford. In typically quirky style, director Bill Bankes-Jones has re-imagined Illyria as Blackpool, with Sebastian and Viola washing up on a beach-front paradise of donkey rides and candyfloss.

28 June to 24 August (0870 609 2231; www.oxfordshakespearecompany.co.uk)

King Lear

Shakespeare's Globe, London

The Globe's first production is the unofficial curtain-raiser for the outdoor season as a whole, and it has kicked things off in style this year with a majestic King Lear. Starring David Calder (right, last seen playing the querulous Marxist professor in Rock'n'Roll) in fine form, this unshowy Jacobean production takes Shakespeare back to its roots with a hand-powered wind machine and thunder boards evoking the monarch's turbulent state of mind.

In rep to 17 August; season runs to 5 October (020-7401 9919; www.shakespeares-globe.org)

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